Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Protection from the sun: Scientists show importance of magnetic field for evolution of life


Nearly four billion years ago, life arose on Earth. Life appeared because our planet had a rocky surface, liquid water and a blanketing atmosphere. But life thrived thanks to another necessary ingredient: the presence of a protective magnetic field. A new study with the participation of the University of Göttingen shows that a magnetic field plays a key role in making a planet conducive to life. The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The scientists studied Kappa Ceti, a star located 30 light years away in the constellation Cetus, the Whale. Kappa Ceti is remarkably similar to our Sun, but younger. It is magnetically very active and its surface is blotched with many giant starspots, like sunspots, but larger and more numerous.

Computer model of the magnetic field lines of the star Kappa Ceti as gray lines looping out from the star’s surface.

Credit: Do Nascimento et al.

Artist’s illustration of the young Sun-like star Kappa Ceti, blotched with large starspots, which is a sign of its high level of magnetic activity.

Credit: M. Weiss/CfA

It also propels a steady stream of plasma or ionized gases out into space, a stellar wind that is 50 times stronger than our Sun’s solar wind. Kappa Ceti is between 400 and 600 million years old and its age roughly corresponds to the time when life first appeared on Earth.

“Studying Kappa Ceti can give us insight into the early history of our own solar system,” explains co-author Dr. Sandra Jeffers from Göttingen University’s Institute for Astrophysics.

Without the protection of a magnetic field, such a fierce stellar wind would batter the atmosphere of any planet in the habitable zone – a fate that in our solar system the planet Mars suffered.

In their study, the scientists modeled the strong stellar wind of Kappa Ceti and its effect on a young Earth. “The early Earth’s magnetic field is expected to have been about as strong as it is today, or slightly weaker,” says Dr. Jeffers.

“Depending on the assumed strength, we found that the resulting protected region or magnetosphere of Earth would be about one-third to half as large as it is today. The early Earth didn’t have as much protection as it has now, but it had enough in order to preserve the necessary conditions for life.”

Kappa Ceti also shows evidence of superflares, enormous eruptions that release 10 to 100 million times more energy than the largest flares ever observed on our Sun. Flares that energetic can strip a planet’s atmosphere. By studying Kappa Ceti, the researchers hope to learn how frequently it produces superflares, and therefore how often our Sun might have erupted in its youth.

Original publication: J.-D. Do Nascimento, Jr. et al. Magnetic field and wind of Kappa Ceti: Towards the planetary habitability of the young Sun when life arose on Earth. The Astrophysical Journal Letters 2016.

Dr. Sandra Jeffers
University of Göttingen
Faculty of Physics – Institute for Astrophysics
Friedrich-Hund-Platz 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany, Phone +49 551 39-13810

Weitere Informationen:

Thomas Richter | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>